Frontiers of the Future (A Screen Editorial With Lowell Thomas)
Full of GREAT stock shots of 1930s manufacturing, research laboratories and industry
Lowell Thomas sitting at desk in studio
Art card: map of United States with various shots matted in
ÒThere are no new frontiers within our borders.Ó
ÒTo what new horizons can we look now? Where are tomorrowÕs opportunities? WhatÕs ahead in America for you and your children?Ó
Men and women walking towards light, indistinct rapture space (great shot)
Lighted question mark in sky (good)
Dramatized Commissioner of Patents in 1844, speaking to camera and telling us that Òhuman improvements must end.Ó
Old clipper ship (reenacted)
Old railroad engine (reenacted)
[more shots unlisted Ð return and list them]
VS scientists in industrial research labs: glassware, test tubes, scales, etc.
CU test tube held in front of camera
LS oil wells in Pennsylvania, supered over news piece on Col. DrakeÕs oil discovery
Gasoline auto engine supered in vignette over refineries and other images
Pan over huge oil refinery
VS large oil refineries
Wipe out to gas station
CU nozzle entering gas tank
[more shots unlisted here Ð return to this]
CU vanishing cream and other petroleum byproducts coming out of petroleum drum
MS researchers in scientific library
LS draftsmen in drafting room
Scientist talking about problems: why we can see through glass, what is friction, what makes grass green
VS African American workers picking cotton in field Ð various supers over picture at bottom with statistics about extractive production
Pan over wheatfield
CU airplane propeller rotating and speeding up
LS old freeway interchange
Entrance to West Side highway from street level below (New York City)
Aerial of West Side highway in Manhattan, New York City
Hammer hammering lens
CU television screen, hand adjusting knob underneath
[more shots unlisted here Ð return and log]
Optical showing various ingredients rotating in front of camera, montage of synthetically produced goods (good, kind of abstract)
Montage of research, design, engineering, industry, transportation (good)
CU brass plaque ÒRESEARCH LABORATORYÓ
Subject: Barrage of Propaganda
So this was one of four shorts that the NAM sponsored and released in 1937/38 to movie theaters, schools, conservation corps camps, and companies. They were clearly trying to gain national support after the sit-down strike in Flint and convince the general public that GM (among others) were not only people's best friend and benefactor, but practically their parents. It's really sickening actually, when you delve even superfially into what NAM's practices really were.
Subject: Bang For The Buck
R & D----that's about the size of the R & D budget of a medium-sized company today....
Subject: No new patents?!? Oh no!
The writing really took off when they brought up oil, which was completely, utterly unless until its use was "founded by American Scientists." Ah, that makes me feel better. Way to go America, great "tasteless waxes for certain kinds of candies."
When a big bag of "COKE" is on the screen, I just about lost it...
The scenes that follow immediately include "research men" cramming a microscope up their eyehole adjoined by Lowell's words, almost painfully said:
"I've been around a lot... with some of these research men, and they won't make predictions... because they deal only in facts..."
One of these research men to which the narrator introduces us gives me NO faith in this 'American Ingenuity' the film keeps touting. Scientists are working around the clock to figure out what makes grass green? It's chlorophyll, you nitwits! How much are we paying you?
"Why can we see through glass? You say it's transparent. But that's merely an adjective."
This has to be the most inane monologue ever written. This guys blinks are worth a thousand bucks. Each.
Man, I wish I had written this movie.
Subject: New Technology Will Solve All Our Problems
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Subject: American Industry Inc.: It's all about jobs!
The visuals point up the "antiquated" way of doing things (horse-drawn milk wagon; fat walrus-mustached guy blowing out a candle) and the new products that have replaced them. Leather from cotton, dyes and fragrance from coal, magic multipurpose substances from water plus air plus fire plus capital. A mystery goop used in billiard balls, fountain pens, and telephones is extolled. Its name, mentioned only in passing: plastic.
What you DON'T see is those products in everyday use by people. Even the already-here stuff is in the future for most of the audience: they simply can't buy anything. American Industry Inc. circa 1937 is a world of black cars with invisible drivers, blast furnaces, wood pulp, cotton, cotton, and more cotton (hey, we have to do something to shore up the faltering Southern status quo). The only faces you see in this world are nondescript men in lab coats and very short neckties. Meanwhile, the people of 1937 are a vast, lumpen mass, walking sheep-like thru a featureless void, no cold cream or fountain pens for sale here (although everybody wears a hat), trudging wearily toward the Great Question Mark in the Sky...the FUTURE???
Yes, people of 1937, these products will make your life easier. Or would, if you could afford to buy anything. So for right now, think JOBS! Jobs in the FUTURE! And be content with not having to blow out candles or wear a walrus mustache.
Telling indeed is that only one "new" product required no description or introduction to the people of 1937...TELEVISION. Its first newscaster? Who else but Lowell Thomas.
Subject: This plane smells....